Another Lebanon war is inevitable - and Israel is preparing


On the face of it, a third major war between Israel and Hizbollah seems implausible right now.

Israel is not eager for another summer like the last one. For 50 days, people across the country were sent scurrying to bomb shelters as Hamas launched missiles from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hizbollah is currently overstretched, doing Iran’s bidding, propping up Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, and sustaining hundreds of casualties in the process. It is also supplying advisers to the Shia militias fighting in Iraq and Yemen.

Despite all that, in the last few weeks the IDF has been briefing the international media on the implications of such a war. In the press conferences, the IDF claimed that was disclosing the precise positions of rocket-launchers, arms depots and fighting tunnels beneath the civilian homes in hundreds of villages in southern Lebanon.

To this the senior officers added a stark warning: Israel cannot allow Hizbollah to fire those rockets at its cities. If war breaks out, they said, the IDF will target the launchers, and the homes above them will also be destroyed. The devastation seen in last summer’s Gaza operation will be relatively mild, they said — and do not blame us.

These assessments are not new. Hizbollah began moving its infrastructure into the villages shortly after the Second Lebanon War ended in August 2006 and the IDF disclosed the information to the Israeli media four years ago — so why the warnings now?

There are three reasons for this PR offensive. First, while Israeli intelligence believes that Hizbollah will not initiate a war when it is at a tactical disadvantage, it is concerned such a war could take place as a result of a rapid escalation following clashes in Syria.

Second, while Israel is not interested in such a war, many of the IDF’s commanders believe it is inevitable at some stage and therefore it may be better for that fight to take place before Hizbollah’s cadres have returned from abroad and have had a chance to regroup.

Third, the IDF is fully aware that the moment such a war begins, much of the international focus will be on the heavy toll paid by Lebanese civilians. The warnings are an attempt to influence that narrative.

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